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Teaching word meanings should be a way for students to define their world, to move from light to dark, to a more fine-grained description of the colors that surround us.
Baker, Simmons, and Kame'enui1 state, "The relation between reading comprehension and vocabulary knowledge is strong and unequivocal. Although the causal direction of the relation is not understood clearly, there is evidence that the relationship is largely reciprocal.
However, not all approaches to teaching word meanings improve comprehension. This chapter will describe some of the most practical and effective strategies that high-school teachers can employ with diverse learners to enhance vocabulary development and increase reading comprehension.
Instructionaland curricular basics and implications. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates,pp. There are a number of traditional teaching practices related to vocabulary that deserve to be left in the "instructional dustbin. Let us quickly review the most common of these less effective approaches.
Certainly dictionaries have their place, especially during writing, but the act of looking up a word and copying a definition is not likely to result in vocabulary learning especially if there are long lists of unrelated words to look up and for which to copy the definitions.
Use them in a sentence. Writing sentences with new vocabulary AFTER some understanding of the word is helpful; however to assign this task before the study of word meaning is of little value.
There is little research to suggest that context is a very reliable source of learning word meanings. Nagy3 found that students reading at grade level had about a one twentieth chance of learning the meaning of a word from context.
This, of course, is not to say that context is unimportant but that students need a broader range of instructional guidance than the exhortation "Use context. Rote learning of word meanings is likely to results, at best, in the ability to parrot back what is not clearly understood.
Vocabulary learning, like most other learning, must be based on the learner's active engagement in constructing understanding, not simply on passive re-presenting of information from a text or lecture.
Reviewing the research literature on vocabulary instruction leads to the conclusion that there is no single best strategy to teach word meanings but that all effective strategies require students to go beyond the definitional and forge connections between the new and the known.
Nagy3 summarizes the research on effective vocabulary teaching as coming down to three critical notions: The following section will explore some practical strategies that secondary teachers can employ to increase the integration, repetition, and meaningful use of new vocabulary.
Increase the Amount of Independent Reading The largest influence on students' vocabulary is the sheer volume of reading they do, especially wide reading that includes a rich variety of texts. This presents a particularly difficult challenge for underprepared high-school students who lack the reading habit.
The following strategies can help motivate reluctant readers: Matching text difficulty to student reading level and personal interests e. Choose Appropriate Dictionaries for Heterogeneous Classrooms Secondary students certainly need to know how and when to use a dictionary to look up the meanings of unfamiliar words.
Surprisingly, many adolescents lack even the most rudimentary dictionary skills and benefit from some explicit instruction. Without training and guidance, less proficient readers and English language learners are apt to encounter numerous difficulties as they struggle first to locate and then to effectively navigate a lengthy dictionary entry.
Many students do not own a dictionary, and if they do, it is often not a very powerful or appropriate resource for clarifying word meanings. English learners may carry a bilingual dictionary, but this resource is generally inadequate for several reasons.
First, long-term bilinguals or more recent immigrants with disrupted educational histories may have limited academic vocabulary in the home language. When looking up the meaning of a term such as categorize or stereotype, a bilingual youth may very well encounter an unfamiliar word in the native language.
Simply copying a translation does little to promote reading comprehension. Further, the small bilingual dictionaries carried by secondary students offer limited and often inaccurate definitions.
An electronic dictionary may be equally unproductive for a bilingual or less proficient reader tackling grade-level curricula, as it tends to offer scant definitions and no contextualized example sentences. An electronic dictionary is useful for a quick fix, but it is not the most considerate resource for a student operating from a weak academic vocabulary base while completing grade-level assignments.
Another common language arts resource, which is likely to utterly demoralize an under prepared reader, is an adult thesaurus. To benefit from an array of synonyms, a reader must operate from a solid academic vocabulary base. Less proficient English users will generally have no ability to gauge contextual appropriateness and will end up infusing their written work with glaringly inappropriate word choices.
A traditional collegiate dictionary is probably a less effective resource for students daunted by grade-level literacy tasks. High school classrooms are predictably equipped with only college-level dictionaries, which are actually designed for a proficient adult reader possessing a relatively sophisticated vocabulary base and efficient dictionary skills.
This does not describe the average high-school student, whether she or he is reading at or below grade level. Collegiate dictionaries can be extremely frustrating resources for most adolescent readers because they do not integrate the support mechanisms of a "learners' dictionary.Introduction. State your point of view and/or present your persuasive argument.
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